Continued consumer wariness and tight mortgage market may have led to fewer buyers signing contracts on homes.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 27, 2011 11:49AM

© Gregor Schuster/CorbisThe National Association of Realtors reported that pending homes sales dropped between September and August. The index reading of 84.5 marks a 4.6% month-over-month decline.

The index tracks activity in homes under contract that have not yet closed. Closings usually occur within two months of buyers signing the contract.

This marked the third straight month in which the index decreased. Some economists had expected anywhere from a 0.1% increase in September, Reuters reported, to a 2.8% month-to-month increase, according to Bloomberg's polls.

"A combination of weak consumer confidence and continuing tight lending criteria held back homebuyers, even though the private sector added nearly 2 million net new jobs in the past 12 months," said Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist.


The most valuable home in your neighborhood may be 6 feet under.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 26, 2011 2:04PM

© David Chapman/Design Pics/age footstockA few weeks back, we highlighted seven homes for sale with graveyards on-site or nearby. We also asked our Facebook followers: Could you handle having a cemetery that close to your home?

Their answers: Unanimously yes.

And they're not the only ones who aren't spooked. An article in The Wall Street Journal says that cemeteries are now attracting more real-estate investors, who may see them as bargains.

Even as Halloween rolls in, graveyards may end up being among the least-scary real-estate proposition for today's buyers.


Builder price cuts likely led 5.7% growth in month-to-month sales. Meanwhile, builders group says we're headed for another record-low year.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 26, 2011 11:00AM

Sales of new homes increased 5.7% in September from August, according to the Census Bureau. They also measured a 0.9% decrease from September 2010.

© Exactostock/SuperStockThe jump to an annual rate of 313,000 new homes built marks the first sales gain after four months of decline. Traditionally, those four summer months are the strongest for home sales and construction. August's rate was the lowest in six months.

But the good times could be short-lived. In its fall housing-construction forecast, the National Association of Home Builders said it is not expecting a recovery in new-home sales or construction until 2013.

"I see some annual curing in 2012 and more in 2013, and that means we will see more building going on," said David Crowe, the NAHB's chief economist, in a conference call earlier today. "This year is looking like it will come in at another record low."


In light of last week's Ohio animal-farm tragedy, states may be cracking down on ownership of 'exotic' pets — if they haven't already.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 25, 2011 1:31PM

Homeowners associations, landlords and other housing authorities often field pet questions from prospective buyers and renters. Can we keep a dog? How many cats are too many cats?

© Joel Sartore/National Geographic/Getty Images

And what about Ladainian, my 40-pound Canadian lynx?

After the owner of a Zanesville, Ohio, farm released 56 lions, tigers and other wild animals last year— resulting in the deaths of 49 animals as well as the owner, of an apparent suicide — many communities are focusing on if and how a similar event could happen there. Often, it comes down to state and local pet laws. The Agriculture Department does not regulate pets, though zoos and wildlife sanctuaries fall under its jurisdiction.


Case-Shiller reports a small gain in August, while another housing index shows a slight decline. Bottom line: Neither represents a recovery yet.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 25, 2011 11:30AM

Nationwide, home prices in August remained near July's levels, according to two indexes released today.

Fuse/Getty Images

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed a 0.2% increase in August's home prices from July. Case-Shiller's 20-city and 10-city indexes measured the same gain. Year to year, however, the 20-city index was down 3.8% from August 2010, while the 10-city index was down 3.5%.

The blog "Calculated Risk" also notes that when allowing for seasonal adjustments, the 20-city index actually decreased 0.1% from July.

Meanwhile, the less-watched Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index logged a 0.1% decrease in August from July. This marks the index's first month-to-month drop since March, the FHFA says.

Just as with last month's home-price data releases, the slight increases and kinda-sorta-maybe dips likely don't represent a sea change in the housing market.


Revisions to the Home Affordable Refinance Program could help some homeowners regain equity, but they may not affect the housing market significantly.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 24, 2011 2:22PM

Changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program announced today are designed to help underwater borrowers, or those who owe more on their home than their home is worth, refinance their home loans even if they don't have equity.

© SuperStock

Previous incarnations of the 2.5-year-old program only allowed borrowers who owed less than 125% of the value of their home to refinance — and that barrier was raised from those owing 80%.

Fewer than 900,000 borrowers have refinanced through HARP since it began, a far cry from the estimated 5 million it was designed to aid. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, conservator of government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, says the rule changes could open the program to another million homeowners. Analysts at Barclay Capital say that number could grow as high as 3.1 million, according to Dow Jones.

Interest rates on 30-year mortgages have hit record lows in recent weeks, per MSN Money. But with home values and prices falling, refinancing activity hasn't seen a huge boost. President Barack Obama says this makes HARP "critically important for a place like Las Vegas," where he outlined the plan's details at a residence earlier today. CoreLogic says that about 58% of Nevada homeowners have underwater mortgages, with Arizona (49%) and Florida (43%) close behind.

Considering HARP's track record and what the rules actually change, however, some analysts question just how big an impact the changes may have.


This St. Louis property, steps from two former Major League Baseball stadium sites, is just one of many homes built on or near historic sports spots.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 20, 2011 4:06PM

Hey St. Louis Cardinals fans: Got World Series fever? Just imagine if you lived steps from the games. And instead of coming from deep in the heart of Texas, your World Series rivals came from — St. Louis.

Such was the case in 1944, when the National League's Cardinals beat the American League's St. Louis Browns in six games at Sportsman's Park, the home field for both teams. It marked the final World Series in which all games took place in the same stadium.

It was one of seven World Series the Cards brought back to Sportsman's Park before the stadium was demolished in 1966; the Browns moved to Baltimore, changing their name to the Orioles, in 1954. And if you lived in our Listing of the Week, you'd likely have had a decent view of right field from your roof. Just like your best baseball buds in Chicago.

Built in 1902, according to, this 6,008-square-foot North St. Louis home is listed for sale as a multifamily property for $35,000. The brick duplex on Palm Place, boasting gas heat and four baths, may not look like much now, compared with the architecturallysignificanthomes and Beverly Hills palaces we've featured previously. But with Sportsman's Park less than two blocks away at Dodier Street and Grand Boulevard — and its predecessor, Robison Park, or "New" Sportsman's Park, just four blocks down — it was the center of St. Louis' baseball universe in the days when Stan Musial, not Albert Pujols, hit balls into orbit.

(By the way: Have a peek at the neighborhood near the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers and this weekend's World Series games.)

Want to live where baseball heroes once called home? You have a chance in other cities, as well.


Sales decreased 3% from August but show substantial gain from September 2010.

By Tony at MSN Real Estate Oct 20, 2011 12:56PM

© Seth Joel/Getty ImagesA somewhat surprising jump in home sales in August didn't carry over to September, as sales of existing homes nationwide fell 3% month to month. They did measure an 11.3% gain from September 2010, however, according to the National Association of Realtors.


The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.91 million home sales matched the sales volume for 2010. Unfortunately, 2010 was the worst year for sales of previously owned homes since 1997.

Overall, the housing market's outlook remains the same.


"It's in a holding pattern," Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist, said in a news release. "When it does break out, it will break out upward, but it hasn't broken out yet."






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